Friday, December 29, 2006

Some good things have happened since I last wrote here. First, we had a great Christmas; I'll get the photos posted very soon (I keep writing that, thinking that if I write it enough it'll come true). Then, I found out it was my medicine that was making me depressed. It was such a relief, I'm not even going to be mad that nobody told me it might happen. I seldom ever take medicine, but the doctor convinced me my bronchitis was going to turn into pneumonia if I didn't take the medicine to make me cough that stuff out of my bronchial tubes. Anyway, I took the medicine, and dropped into a deep, deep funk. I don't even really know how to describe it. I wanted to sleep all the time; I didn't care if I lived or died. In fact, if given a choice, I would've chosen to die. Not to mention I was completely exhausted from coughing. Then one day we had somewhere to go and I couldn't sit there and cough all the way through it, so I didn't take the medicine that morning. I'd also skipped the last dose the day before, just because I was too tired to cough. By the end of the day, I'd missed several doses and, lo and behold, I was beginning to feel alive again for the first time in a week. Hmm. Needless to say, I quit taking the medicine completely. Then, on Christmas, I was telling my family my theory that the medicine had made me depressed and suicidal (really, I didn't want to live anymore), and Angela said, well wait a minute, what was it? I told her and guess what? The same thing had happened to her with the same medicine; she called the pharmacist and the pharmacist said sure enough, there's an ingredient in that medicine that makes a small percentage of people have depression symptoms. Why in the cat hair don't they tell people that? I would've stopped taking it sooner.

Another good thing is that I talked to Charles at the Atwood family gathering about my job situation and he totally understands it. He just went through the very same thing at a job he'd worked at for 40 years. He quit. I had been feeling like the caveman on the Geico commercials, like no one understood, but now that someone does (he's not the only one, okay?, but it helped so much to know that he seemed to fully understand that you just can't work under some circumstances) I feel so much better.

We had a great time at Gwen's last Saturday night. After the food and gifts and fireworks, the family tradition is that everybody sits around and sings and those with guitars play guitar. If there's a piano, then someone plays that, too. This year, the men all sang love songs they'd written. It got to be kind of funny, because they tried to outdo one another. Some of them were pretty darn good. Recordable, in my opinion.

I thought we were going to have the SMWP book swap here, because Kim said she hadn't heard from Patricia. I was sitting on standby, just in case. When I heard, I went straight into high gear: polished the silver, hired a sitter, made hors d'oeuvres (I looked up how to spell that, so I know it's right), hired Service Master to come and clean the carpets and upholstery, pruned the shrubbery and trees around the front of the house, reupholstered the dining room chairs, and bought a new outfit. Then come to find out, Patricia's having it after all. (Okay, none of this ever actually happened. I just wrote all that in case Patricia reads this. Really, I had not lifted a finger to prepare for it.)

The other night, Tim and I argued over whether or not water will boil faster if it's hot when you put it in the boiler. He says no; I know yes. He says he did some kind of experiment when he was in high school or something. Listen, I don't care if Jonas Salk, Madame Curie, and Bill Nye the Science Guy all say otherwise: I've been cooking for thirty years, and I know what I know.

I was going to write more, but I'm in the middle of cleaning out my sock drawer. I am so restless these days, I can't sit still. Nervous energy, I think.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I am taking a break from wrapping gifts. I have three to go, and I'm sort of putting it off because wrapping gifts is one of my favorite things to do. Really. I love making the bows. Last night I was in Dollar General looking for gift boxes, and there was this couple on the same aisle looking for bows. You know, those pre-made ones that come about a dozen to a package? They couldn't find any, nor could one of the girls who works there. Then, the woman half of the couple said well what in the world were they going to do, and then she went over to the box that had rolls of ribbon and said it's not like she knew how to make a bow or anything so the ribbon wouldn't do her any good. Well, what else could I do? I said hey if there's a roll that's already open I'll show you how to make one. So, I did my own little part last night to bring peace on earth right there on the Christmas aisle at Dollar General, just by showing that dear damsel in distress how to make bows. She ended up buying several rolls of ribbon so she could make more. I do what I can.

When I walked through the dining room just now, Lizzie was in there playing office, wearing one of my nightgowns and a pair of impossibly high heels Judy gave her to play in. When she saw me she said please, Mama, don't "disturve" me. She never wants anybody to listen to her when she plays. Sometimes she'll come into whatever room I'm in and tell me she's about to start playing wedding or school or office or whatever and please don't "disturve" her. I remember that from when I was little. When Angela and I got into playing something, like movies or TV (usually Bonanza---she was married to Adam and I was married to Little Joe)---we'd get so mad if Mama listened to us. Mama says the only time she ever heard the two of us argue was when Angela announced she was going to Morton and she "left" without giving me time to get my babies ready.

While I was wrapping gifts, I was flooded with memories of Zate's house at Christmas. Zate is what we called my Aunt Laura Zelle. She was my great, great aunt, really. She made beautiful velvet and pearl Christmas ornaments and knitted Christmas stockings. I can remember delivering stockings to Dr. Lucas and Coach Turk at USM. She'd taught them English at Copiah Lincoln and stayed in touch with them until she died. There were always pins everywhere; you had to be careful where you sat. When I think of her, I always think of the sad story of her unrequited romance. She was madly in love with a boy when she was in her twenties---he loved her, too. But Papa Weems would not have it. No way, no how. The boy was "beneath" Laura Zelle, and he forbade her to have anything to do with him. He married and had a family, but she never did. I guess she loved him til the day she died. How sad is that? I always harbored ill will toward Papa Weems for thwarting true love, but. . . .well, now that Hannah has started dating a little, I think I may have a little of Papa Weems in me. It's a terrible thing to be the mother of a teenage girl. When this boy (nice enough boy, well-groomed, honors student, tennis and basketball teams) comes to pick her up, I find myself wanting to ask for a writing sample, a family tree, give him an aptitude test of some sort. My Aunt Sandra always preached to us the importance of good genes, of marrying someone physically attractive and of above average intelligence. I wish there were some sort of test for that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

This morning I watched television for about three hours. I never do that; I had no idea what the morning offerings are. I watched a tad of The View because I'd seen all the hoopla on Fox and Friends about the Rosie/Donald thing. I watched a man named Les Feldick teach a Bible study. Not bad. I don't think I'd ever heard of him. I watched Kay Arthur teach about forgiving friends when you feel they've wronged you. I like Kay a lot and have a lot of respect for her, but right now I'm more into dismissing people from my heart. Of course, she talked about the whole prison thing, and how you yourself are really the one in prison if you won't forgive, but lately it seems to me it's more of a bondage to try to hang on sometimes. I'm ready to say "you choose your direction and I'll go the other one; if some kings take you captive, I just don't know if I'll gather my men and come after you or not." But, hey. I do know. I'd probably be the first to saddle up. I did find myself arguing with Kay about it, though. Talking out loud to the television and that kind of thing.

I read Esther this morning in The Message. I don't have anything against The Message, and I pull it out at least once a week or more, but I do find Peterson's style (is his name Peterson???) gets old if you read too much of it. I wouldn't want to read it every day. I found myself focusing more on Mordecai this year than Esther. I don't know why. Also, I just wonder about the Jews declaring their own feast day. Sort of seems extra-Levitical or something. I didn't read Deuteronomy yet. Last year, I read it in The Message, but I don't think I will this year. Maybe the Amplified version. I haven't decided.

Okay, speaking of reading, I finally made it to the Collins Library yesterday. I'm telling you, it's like walking into Cheers and hearing "NORM!!!" Really. Like coming home. David said, "You're here! You always increase my circulation!" (You know, I didn't see a thing wrong with that, but Tim has committed himself to teasing me mercilessly about that comment ever since I told him about it. He's made circulation jokes about every five minutes.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My hair looks fine, but the whole experience turned out to be an emotional wringer for me. As it got closer to time to leave home, I didn’t know if I could go through with it or not. Finally, I called the salon and asked to speak to Danita. The receptionist told me she was with a client, but I actually whimpered (whimpered!) and told her this was life and death and that I must speak to Danita NOW. So when she came to the phone, I told her I felt positively adulterous, that this was akin to Tim seeing me go into a hotel with another man. She assured me that it was all okay (but don’t do it again), and that Megan would do a fine job. But then when I got to the shop, it seemed (was it my imagination?) that Danita was cool to me. I spoke, she spoke. I sat on the couch waiting and waiting for Megan to appear. I squirmed, picked up a magazine, squirmed some more. I got up and went over to Danita’s station, commented on how much I liked her new style (permed and really cute), felt the curls, patted her back. She seemed to "unstiffen". I asked about Lindsey’s baby, went and sat back down on the couch. Squirmed. Finally (finally!), Megan came from the back, looking all of twelve years old. Danita came over, told Megan to do a good job, that I was one of her most faithful (thanks for the knife in the back) clients. After that, I just sat in the chair numb the whole time. Just numb. I’m telling you, it was a wringer. Just wrung me right out. Tim said he likes my hair and will I be switching to Megan now? It turns out Megan is the one who cuts his hair. Of course I won’t be switching. I am faithful. This was just a lapse. A one-day stand.

One of the lead features on Yahoo this morning is a new study showing that germs make you fat. Well, hello! Do I not stand on the street corners telling people about enzymes and acidophilus and the importance of digestive health? Can I get anyone to listen? Maybe they’ll listen to Yahoo if not to a yahoo.

Kim was telling me yesterday she bought a nice framed map of the world on I went there last night and poked around for a half hour or so. The one I want is one seventy-nine, plus delivery. I’m thinking about going to Hobby Lobby and trying to find one that I can frame myself. Never mind that I’ve never framed anything before. Tim loves maps and I was thinking that it’d be the perfect Christmas gift for him. (I haven’t been able so far to rent a cabin anywhere like I did last year.) If I’d ordered it last night before eleven and paid extra for shipping, I could’ve had it here on Saturday. I just couldn’t seem to click the mouse somehow.
The weather here is just not good. Not at all what I wanted for this week. Nothing like they’re having in Denver, though. How bad is that? And Jen told us yesterday she’s flying into Denver today. Was it today or tomorrow? Anyway, I saw on the news this morning there are 4,700 people stranded in the Denver airport. I hope it all works out for her.

Someone posted one of those NCLB parodies at the forum. I am immune to all of that, it seems. In the early days, when I’d read those (they were everywhere; remember the dentist?), I would somehow think there was hope. You know, if enough people would speak up and show the absolute senseless insanity of it all, maybe someone would listen. No. It’s not going to happen. Then when all the reports of corruption came out, the ties of the Bush family to McGraw Hill, the underhandedness of the NRP, the blatant lies, I thought well okay this is it. No. There are no WMDs in Iraq. Left is right, black is white, bad is good, and keep your mouth shut about it. When all of the good teachers have left, when the school years of billion s of children are wasted, the textbook and testing companies still have full pockets, and there’s not one single thing that can be done about it.

I had forgotten how funny Breathing Lessons is. I have laughed uncontrollably at times. Good medicine. My appetite has come back with a bang. Yesterday, I wanted every one of the sweet potato fries on Jen’s plate. Her chicken and mushroom sandwich, too. I even went by the bakery and bought a box full of homemade Christmas candy. I threw it all in the garbage, though. It was not at all good. I’m not a great candy maker, but even mine is better than that. They had divinity, Martha Washington, everything. And it was all thoroughly mediocre.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I was awake all night. All night. I don't mean that I was awake part of the night, or that I was awake every half hour. I mean I was awake all night. I don't really know why. Maybe it was the vanilla malt. My appetite is coming back, and yesterday around noon I started craving a vanilla malt. I wasn't hungry at supper, so I didn't eat anything, but around 8:00 I told Tim I must have a vanilla malt. Just three sips. We went to Sonic and I drank the whole thing. I didn't even really want it once I had it, but I drank it because it was there. Well, of course I have a milk allergy and I'm not supposed to eat ice cream. I was awake all night.

If you're ever in Seminary shopping at Piggly Wiggly and you decide to try to figure out how to get to my house on the backroads and you go up by the side of the store past the feed mill and then you keep going a ways and decide to turn on Speed Town Road because it seems like it would take you to Hwy. 535, and then you sit for a minute at the place where Speed Town Road forks into Frank Speed Road, and you decide to stick with Speed Town because Frank Speed looks pretty much like the road less-traveled, and then you wind and wind and wind around the winding road that is Speed Town, then you take a right onto Abercrombie/Knight Road and you end up at what looks like 535, don't turn left onto that highway. Turn right. Because you're not on 535 at all. You're on 588. So if you turn left you'll go straight to Collins, and not to my house. Just thought I'd share that information.

Yesterday morning (or was it Monday morning?) I watched the tail end of Bobby Flay's holiday show, and I saw him make a gingerbread trifle. He made gingerbread, then he mixed lemon curd with whipped cream, then he made a raspberry filling with raspberries and some kind of liqueur. It got me to thinking about the tastes of the Christmases of my childhood. Detsie made gingerbread with lemon sauce, sticky buns, and something we called ambrosia, which was oranges and coconut and I don't know what-all else. Detsie's cooking was completely different from Mama's. Mama is, of course, a world-class dessert maker. She can make anything, no matter how difficult the procedure. Then there was Mrs. Myrtle High, my Sunday school teacher. She made date-loaf candy and brought it in a little Christmas tin to church--the same tin every year. That tin was Pavlov's bell for me.

I started re-reading Breathing Lessons this morning. I got it from the library Monday. I did not, after all, go to Shirley's or the Collins Library. I went to the Seminary Library instead. I got Breathing Lessons, The Clock Winder, and a Barbara Kingsolver whose title I can't remember right now. I finished up The Accidental Tourist last night and was irritated that it ended the very same way it did the last six times I read it. Why does Macon choose Muriel every time? Why? He so obviously should stay with Sarah. It makes me mad every time I read it.

I might go ahead and read Deuteronomy and Esther this week, though traditionally I don't do it until the week between Christmas and New Year's. I sort of dread the Esther thing, since I've decided not to be an Esther anymore. I just don't want to. I've run out of steam. I always think of that guy who worked in the palace when Elijah was shaking his finger at old what's-his-name the king. I always think, well, I'm him instead of Elijah. Working from within instead of without. But I'm getting out now, and yes, it is sad in a way. Everything I did with the children in December, I'd think, "this might be the last time I ever do this with children" but then we'd have a meeting or get a memo and I'd think "I love teaching too much to stay in this situation."

Yesterday morning, I watched Proof of Life with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. How could anyone not love Russell Crowe? It came on again this morning at 2:30. I only watched part of it.

I've never been able to hide anything my whole life. Yesterday, I was in T.J. Maxx and I saw some lingerie I had to have. The girls were with me, and I hid it in the shopping cart (it's pretty, um, revealing) under the chocolate-covered cranberries, espresso beans, vanilla caramels, and pewter bowl. Then, when it was time to check out, I told them to go sit on the bench at the front of the store while I stood in line. The place was packed. Packed. So when I was finished and we were leaving, the alarm thing went off as we were walking out the door. I knew. The lingerie. Ink tag. All eyes were on us as we walked back over to the register. The girls walked back with me, and the cashier started pulling out all the clothes I'd bought. "It's the lingerie", I told her, and she pulled it out, held it up for everyone to see, found the ink tag, got it off, held it up again for everyone to see. Yep.

Today at ten I have a hair appointment and I'm worried sick about it. Danita was booked up until 2009 or something, according to the receptionist, so she worked me in with someone named Megan. I've been with Danita forever. We've been through everything together. Nikki's death, Preston's divorce. Everything. My hair.

At eleven, I'm meeting Kim and Jen at Chesterfield's for lunch. After that, I'm coming home to sleep, I hope.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm supposed to be putting together a resume and asking people to write letters of recommendation for me. Strong letters, according to the list of things I need. Not weak. I hate to ask people for those; they're all as busy as I am. I'm going to have to snap out of the reverie I've put myself into as a coping mechanism, and just get all this stuff put together this week. I don't know if I've written about this yet or not, but a few weeks ago I decided the only way to get through this is to distance myself from my work life. It's working really well, I must say. Last week, when they pulled in one of their big dogs to talk to me (she was only a little yipper, I can assure you), I sat at the conference table and observed the meeting from afar. I nodded, smiled. Well, okay, there was one moderately long speech that issued forth from me, but only one. And even that was almost just to amuse myself. When I explained to them that DIBELS is a dangerous decontextualized assessment tool that the district should never have purchased and that they have joined in selling out our children to corporate America, they looked at me as if I have six heads. Nobody can ever say I didn't try to inform their discretion.

I think I must've had a miscarriage yesterday. I've been in distance mode so long, I haven't been paying close attention to things. I woke up cramping and feeling very sick. Then there was a huge gush of blood and what looked like an organ of some sort. I bled for a few hours, then stopped. I was pretty much wiped out the whole day. Mama thinks I should go to the doctor, but I've been through this a whole bunch of times, and the nurse will just tell me to come if I run fever and continue to hurt. Which I haven't and I don't.

I did wake myself up enough yesterday afternoon to draft my Thanksgiving cards and e-mails. I try to let my friends and acquaintances know each year that I am truly thankful for them. Just writing the words makes me think about them fondly and helps me to know how blessed I am to have them. Watch your mailboxes and inboxes.

Sunday I was on the fringe of a conversation about whether or not God did indeed forgive the nation of Israel for crucifying Jesus. I was determined not to get into the conversation, but the first thought I had was that of course He did. But this person seemed to think He did not, because of the destruction of Jerusalem that came in 70 A.D.

All my writing project friends went to Nashville last week; some are still there. I stayed home, because I couldn't get the days off from work. I tried not to think of them there without me, and I succeeded until Kim sent me several e-mails Saturday night. Wish you were here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Is there anything better than windmill cookies and strong coffee? I don't think so. That's what I'm having right now, as a matter of fact. Tim just called and said he's bringing supper home so I don't have to cook. Really, I don't mind cooking. It relieves a lot of stress; but so does writing, so it's all working out.

The best thing about last week is that I know for a fact that this week has to be better. That's how bad it was. It was pure-D awful. I showed my rear end at a meeting, and my only regret is that I didn't say more. I really do think it's time to ring the death knell on public education. It will never recover from this administration. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. Somebody's gonna' pay, though. I have to believe that.

Meanwhile, I am teacher of the world right now. I'm teaching my heart out, because I hear the clock ticking. I was reading on Susan O'Hanian's site an article written by a woman whose co-workers are saying they want to shut their doors and do what's right. She replied that she wants to OPEN her door and do what's right. What a sick sad environment, when you have to hide good teaching. I'm so glad my spine is made of steel. They're all afraid of me, really. But at the same time, I can't respect someone who's afraid of me. Know what I mean?

I spent Saturday at USM with Patricia, Sherry, and Kim. What fun. I need to do that every once in a while to get my bearings, see which way is north. If you think I'm gloom and doom, I have to admit it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be. It's a heck of a lot worse.

The other day I heard the song "Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul". I saw myself, about 5 or 6 years old, walking up the steps of Lake United Methodist Church. I was wearing a dress, stockings, black patent leather shoes, a red wool cape, and a muff. The muff was furry on the outside, and lined with sateen. (I guess that stuff is called sateen; that's what my aunt always called it when she called Mama to come over and get some: "Melvin's had sateen on sale for a dollar a yard. I got thirty yards so y'all can all line your coats with it this winter.") Well, anyway, back to the muff. Or was I getting back to the song? I don't know which way is north in this paragraph. I think I was going to write about the memory of the Sunday Angela and I sang that song at church, and I can still remember what I was wearing that day. I wonder if my cape was lined with sateen. I can't remember the inside of it.

I just remembered that even all my doll's clothes were lined with sateen. Mama would make them coats from our leftover fabric, and they were always lined and had brass buttons and everything--just like ours. Lately I've been wishing I could sew. There's no end to the ways I could make money from home if I knew how to sew. I've really been thinking about cooking, though. If I could get up a little business selling cakes, pies, cookies, maybe soups and casseroles.

We saw One Night with the King Saturday night. It was okay, but a little overdone in some areas.

It seemed like there was more I wanted to say, but I don't remember it. I was reading at the zolaboard about this whole Calivinism mess. Some of them actually think that when scripture speaks of "before time" and "before the foundation of the world" that it's referring to pre-Genesis. Surely they know that means after the exodus. Surely? And all those Romans verses they quote about the elect? Surely they don't believe their own interpretation of those. Surely?

Time for Rachael Ray.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mama had surgery last week. She hates being an invalid, and suddenly the house is way too small for her and Daddy to cohabitate. She told me yesterday they might not make it to their 50th anniversary on the 29th of next month. Something to do with cornbread.

I've been blog-hopping tonight. I stayed home from the ballgame because it's too cold for Lizzie to be out, but she ended up going over to Judy's anyway. First, I thought I'd read. I'm deep into several books on reading comprehension, and a novel about slavery in Louisiana. That didn't work, though, because I can't stay awake and I'm afraid to go to sleep. So then I switched to television, but I don't have a long enough attention span to watch anything. I do have a movie on; kind of scary, but I want to see how it ends. Then I went to the forums, but I just can't get interested in talking to people about what the elephant feels like. Really, I don't even think we're feeling the same elephant at all. I can't talk to people who believe in the total depravity of man. They will tell you that of course they mean pre-"salvation", but they don't mean that at all. They don't believe they've been crucified with Christ. They don't believe in regeneration. They don't believe in new wine, new creation, oneness, submission. So, I switched to blog-hopping. Some people are as busy as I am, apparently, because they're not writing regularly. I did find some current posts on some of my regular stops, though. Vernon wins the prize for most frequent posting; Karen has the least.

My movie's heating up; need to stop a minute.

The heroine, a novelist who made four million dollars from her first novel and whose husband and his lover were trying to kill her, managed to get free of the chain they'd tied around her ankles (which, in turn, they'd tied to a heavy anchor) before throwing her into the sea. She surfaced and climbed onto the pier, and now there's a commercial break. Did you know that cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus, the Pillsbury Doughboy is still on their advertisements, drinking 24 ounces of milk every 24 hours can help you lose weight, and Night Guard can help protect your teeth if you grind them at night? Also, Febreze has a new product you can plug into an electrical outlet, DirectTv is having a Refer a Friend sweepstakes, and Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant are playing in a movie showing tomorrow night on Oxygen. Are there always that many ads in a commercial break.

Uh-oh. The heroine has followed her husband and his lover into the lighthouse and she's beating the everloving mess out of them. But wait! The lover is down, but the husband is up and is chasing her up the stairs of the lighthouse. Hmm. A hook is lowering itself from the ceiling and is now stabbing the husband. The heroine is on the balcony of the lighthouse. "Patrick" has followed her up and is giving her a seashell. Now "Patrick" has jumped from the balcony and has landed on the rocks below. The husband and lover, who are totally depraved?, will not get that four million after all. Now the heroine is standing on the seashore, looking out at the waves, and talking to a man with an Irish accent. A pretty woman has come out and is now hugging the heroine. Celtic music is playing. The heroine is getting into her SUV and driving away from the Irishman and the pretty woman.

I think I'll get back to the slave novel now.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I have eaten bagged spinach every single day this week. I always put spinach on salads and, as part of my health kick, I've been adding chopped cabbage and grape tomatoes as well. Now I read on yahoo that there is an outbreak of e. coli in 20 states and it has been traced to bagged spinach. Okay.

I am trying to pretend we are not doing this kitchen remodel. I have to distance myself from it mentally in order to endure the mess. I hate mess.

Jessica is having a terrible year. I am deeply burdened by it. She's already been in in-school suspension a couple of times. The teachers on the other hall do not even try to get to know her. It reminds me of Joe. I taught him for two years, and most of the time I spent defending him from the other adults in the school. Both of these children went through things when they were toddlers that no human should ever experience. Then they came to our school, a place full of Christians, and couldn't even get a cup of cold water. I just don't believe things like that go unanswered.

Lizzie lost her first tooth today. It's been loose for six weeks, at least. I thought it would never come out. I sent her down to the kindergarten so Janice could pull it. I don't pull teeth. I've never pulled one of my children's teeth. It's always sad to me when they start to lose their baby teeth. They have such a different look about them when those bigger teeth start to come in.

What in the world is reformed theology? I've been reading some things about it tonight, but I can't seem to wrap my brain around it.

I've seen a few lovebugs, but not anywhere near as many as post-Katrina. Last year, they were a pestilence of Biblical proportions. This year, I've seen fewer than ten.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I found this passage from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1820:

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

I believe that, and I work so hard not only to try to keep myself informed, but to inform those around me (whether they want to be informed or not). However, sometimes I get really mad because I think people just don’t have enough backbone to do what’s right. There was a situation at the beginning of the year at school that was just flat out wrong. It involved a child in my class–a placement error–and I informed the principal of it the day before school started. I’m not going to go into details here, but it smacked of the whole "Texas Miracle" thing that of course turned out to be the "Texas Myth". Well, anyway, nobody wanted me to say anything about it, so I of course told everybody about it. I am first and foremost a child advocate. Anything less would be educational malpractice. So, for the first few days of school, I kept pointing it out and pointing it out.  All to no avail, I’m afraid.
I just read several entries from Jen’s blog, and I think maybe she and I are experiencing some of the same frustrations. Funny that I don’t know how to call in sick, either. It’s just so much easier to go to work than it is to plan to be out.
I see Leslyn has started a blog too, and Rachel e-mailed me that she signed up for one. It somehow makes me feel more connected to all of you. It’s funny how I check several blogsites of friends every day, and I get irritated if they go for a while without writing, yet I seldom ever write myself.

I found this passage from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1820:

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

I believe that, and I work so hard not only to try to keep myself informed, but to inform those around me (whether they want to be informed or not). However, sometimes I get really mad because I think people just don’t have enough backbone to do what’s right. There was a situation at the beginning of the year at school that was just flat out wrong. It involved a child in my class–a placement error–and I informed the principal of it the day before school started. I’m not going to go into details here, but it smacked of the whole "Texas Miracle" thing that of course turned out to be the "Texas Myth". Well, anyway, nobody wanted me to say anything about it, so I of course told everybody about it. I am first and foremost a child advocate. Anything less would be educational malpractice. So, for the first few days of school, I kept pointing it out and pointing it out.. All to no avail, I’m afraid.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I finished three miles of a four mile workout, then ran out of steam. I really don’t have time to work out twice a day, but the 5:00 a.m. workout gets me going for the day and the p.m. workout helps relieve a lot of stress. I’m not going to be hard on myself if I don’t make it all the way through the evening one.

It was good to see the comments from Jen and Leslyn t his morning. I’m not sure I knew Jen had left USM. I’ll have to find out the deal with that. All the more reason for us all to get together. Of course, it’s ridiculous to even say that when Kim planned a dinner meeting last night and I didn’t go. She told me they discussed Maja Wilson’s Rethinking Rubrics. I’m sorry I missed that, but there was no way I could make it.

I was going to write something funny about the two visits we had Saturday: one from the preacher, the other from several members of the youth group at a church we visited last Sunday. They’d been by a couple of times to invite us, and last Sunday morning we decided we’d just go there instead of driving to Hattiesburg. (I could really write some funny things about the service; not that I’d ever make fun of anyone’s form of worship, it’s just that several things were really funny.) Anyway, we were in the middle of some serious yard-mowing Saturday morning when the preacher and his wife drove up. Now, I’m not big into wearing a lot of clothes when I push a mower, and we won’t even get into the hairdos I come up with. Suffice it to say, I think they may have been somewhat uncomfortable. Truly, and you may all laugh at me for this, I am from the school of thought that says you absolutely do not ever drop in on someone. I see that as a social faux pas. My sister and I are very close, and I always call before I go to her house, just as she calls before coming here. So, really, I was a little irritated that they just showed up. I invited them in for coffee or tea, but they declined. I really did want to talk to the preacher about the way he taught Hebrews 2 completely out of context, though. Or, at least, the first three verses. I was real surprised that his "text" was three verses, but Shontelle assures me that three verses is the norm.

Anyway, they finally left, and we mowed a while longer, then came in for a little lunch. Tim got back out to the yard before I did, and when I turned the doorknob to go back out, I saw the youth group in the driveway talking to Tim. (Shontelle says this was the "second team".) I decided to just stay inside until they left. No need to scare the children with my attire. So two drop-in visits, all because we went to church there one Sunday. I was more than a little confused by the whole thing. I mean, none of them asked us anything at all about our relationship with God or anything like that. It was just all about how they offer this and that and the other for the youth, and they offer this and that and the other for the elementary students. None of that interests me in the slightest. In fact, it all seemed rather secular, to tell the truth. Pizza outings and swim parties and volleyball games. I have nothing against any of those things, but I don’t understand why they think it will make us chomp at the bit to go to their church. Well, as I said, I was going to write something funny about it–I even had myself cracking up over it while I was working out–but I can’t for the life of me remember any of it. I promise I was not going to make fun of them; it was self-deprecating humor. Really. It was. But I can’t seem to recapture the wit.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nine Eleven

I don't have much to say about the anniversary of nine eleven. Mary Lou is subbing right now for a teacher who had surgery. She came by today to tell me she will always remember that I'm the one who told her about the planes.

Today is Hannah's fifteenth birthday. A big one, it seems. I was in labor 22 hours with her. From 9:00 on the night of the 10th until 7:30 on the night of the 11th. She was two days past her due date. We'd had several fire drills at school the day before. I remember waddling out to that playground over and over, herding the children to our assigned spot. Mr. Carr would come out with the bullhorn and announce that we had to try again and get it faster. Finally, after the third time, he remembered my condition and announced that my class could sit the rest of them out. I was sure thankful. It was way too hot, and I was way too big.

I got an e-mail from Miles today. He sent me a link to a letter of his that is published in tomorrow's edition of The Guardian. He wants my thoughts on it. I'm not sure I have any--don't know much about foraging, really. (Here's the letter:,,1870043,00.html). When I read The Poisonwood Bible I was struck by the way keeping food on the table consumed their entire day. Not to whine or anything, but truly that is the way it was here for at least a week after Katrina. A grocery store opened in Seminary six days after the storm, but there was nothing on the shelves. By then, we'd lost everything in the freezer and the refrigerators. I don't want to sound as if I'm complaining. I am not. We had food, for which I am eternally grateful. What I'm saying is that getting those meals on the table consumed my days. I am pretty certain I cooked some bad chicken around Friday of the first week, and I was praying hard the whole time we were eating that meal that we wouldn't get sick from it.

This year is killing me. I am taking good care of myself out of absolute necessity. I am eating right and back on a regular exercise program. It occurs to me as I am sitting here typing that what I desperately need is a support group. I need some people to tell me I can do this. Maybe some of the SMWP bunch can start blogging about our school days on the SMWP blog site? Anybody else having a bad year? Anybody want to blog with me about it?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Last night we were in bed, and just before I fell asleep I sat straight up and asked Tim, "Did I cook supper?" I absolutely could not remember cooking it. Since the middle of last week, I have been terrified of the possibility of dementia. That's when I found out my dear friend Will was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. I knew the last couple of times I saw him that he was not quite himself, but I just sort of put it down to stress or whatever. I have spent the last several days reading everything I can find about the cruel disease, the symptoms, the things that might prevent it, etc. I am very burdened by it all. I think of the fear Will must be experiencing and my heart breaks. He had to quit his job as a pharmacist, of course.

Lizzie is outside right now in her artist's smock, playing with a large pot of dirt, a pitcher of water, and several packets of old seeds I found in my desk drawer. I can see her reflection in the computer screen. She will have to have another bath before we leave at noon. I am longing for just one day--one day is all I ask--at home, without appointments. Yesterday we had to have Hannah in Hattiesburg at 11:00 for cheerleader camp, then I had a meeting with Kim at 1:30. Today, we're meeting with some ladies from Sacred Heart school to plan some staff development for the upcoming school year. Then Lizzie has gym at 5:30, and we're thinking about going to watch the cheerleaders' 7:00 public performance. I also need to be making a math order, a book order for SMWP, and writing some "deep reflection" questions for the scoring conference. I am so very glad that I cancelled my Denver trip, because I think maybe the coast conference is going to be a lot of work. We've been having conference calls with Paul about it. He is very sharp and easy to work with, but he does expect hard work, which is fine and no less than I expect of myself.

The math camp went very well. I could teach math all day every day. I am pretty tired of literacy instruction, quite frankly. There's more to life than reading, writing, and reflection. (I cannot believe I actually wrote that.)

We had our first book discussion group at University Baptist Church Sunday night. We started out with Life of Pi. It's been several months since I read it, and last week was pretty hectic so I didn't even get a chance to skim back over it, which I regret. I should've done it Saturday, but I read "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" instead. I have two stacks of books, each nearly as tall as I am, to read. That's one reason I need a day at home. And I also have a list of seven or eight to buy today at Books a Million. Really, I should call the library and see if they have them. I made my first summer trip to the Collins Library week before last. It was great to talk to David again. He was reading a book about Reconstruction. He's always reading something interesting, and we always talk about it a little. He is a fixture of my Junes and Julys, but I never see him the other ten months of the year. I use the Taylorsville library then.

I am reading through my chronological Bible this summer. My plan was to read it through in thirty days, but that's not working out because I keep writing all these questions in the margins and I get all hung up on them. I think maybe I will post my questions each day on the forum, but then I haven't decided whether or not to renew the forum. The domain name expires in seven days.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sick Today

Angela is president of the Weems Reunion now. All the other nominees have ridden mules and traveled to church in a wagon, but somehow she got the position. It's just not right. When I mentioned to her that I was going to contest the election based on the mule factor, she said she has ridden in Son's falcon hundreds of times and that's about the same as riding a mule. Typical twisted politician's reasoning.

We did not eat inside after all, thank goodness. Dinner on the grounds would not be dinner on the grounds if you ate it inside. It would be dinner inside, which is not the same thing as dinner on the grounds. Everybody knows that.   A couple of months ago, I wrote here about the reunion food and how miraculous it is that no one ever gets food poisoning from it. Now I'm sitting here wondering if maybe I'm the first.

The Parkers gave us a travel update, as usual. J.T., my cousin who has converted to Orthodox Judaism and lives on the West Bank, has had another child in the past year, Marian has married someone in Monte Negro and has an unpronounceable last name. Ellen has received some sort of prized residency in neurosurgery and will be moving with her new oncologist husband to San Francisco. On Lamar's side, Mac has been given a full professorship at Harvard Medical School. Mac was sitting across the aisle from me, and somehow he looks exactly like a Harvard professor all of a sudden. He didn't look like one the last time I saw him. Of course, he wasn't one the last time I saw him. On our side, we had a bunch of new babies to show. The Parkers travel, Lamar's branch rises rapidly in the medical profession (although 85% of the Parkers are physicians, too) and our branch reproduces.

I had a dream last weekend. This is notable because I rarely ever have a dream that I remember. In this one, Angela, Pat, Sissy and I were all staying in a hotel on the Gulf Coast. I don't know why. We were all sitting around talking, and they told me I had to get in the shower first. I don't know why. I looked around for my toiletry bag, but I couldn't find it because all their stuff was strewn from corner to corner of that room. I don't know why. Angela was in the middle of telling some sort of story, and the others were enthralled by it so I didn't want to ask them to help me find my stuff, but I needed it in the shower. I kept digging through all kinds of junk on the floor, and when I got over to the area where Sissy's things were, her little chihuahua dog attacked me. The thing grabbed hold of my arm with its teeth and wouldn't let go. I was trying to throw it off, and I was screaming even, but Angela just kept talking and Pat and Sissy were hanging on her every word. Finally, Pat saw the mess I was in and she told Sissy. Sissy walked over, pulled the dog off, paid no attention to the blood streaming from my arm, turned around and said to Angela,"So what happened next?" Angela looked at me, paid no attention to the blood streaming from my arm, and said, "You haven't gotten in the shower yet?" 

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Unbridled Love

Psalm 32:9 "Be not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle"

I have been meditating on this scripture quite a bit lately, thinking about how there is no pleasure for "horse" nor master if a bit and bridle must be used. In situations where I am "master", I just want to walk and talk and have my "servants" walk along and listen freely, not because they have to but because they want to. Think about it. Agree or disagree; it's neither here nor there to me what anyone else thinks. Some people can't operate that way, so they assume that no one can. Sad for them. God had more than enough power to get those grumbling children of Israel into the promised land, but He didn't do it that way. They didn't trust, so they didn't get in. If you take out the weighty matters, you take out the pleasure of God and also your own, because your only pleasure should be to please Him.

Yesterday was the first real day of summer break for me. Up until then, I'd had to go somewhere to work every day. I did do a little work from home yesterday, but at least I was home all day long. The girls spent the day in the pool with cousins (who spent the night here), and I spent the day doing yardwork. Summer stuff. I spent a little while reading a new book the FedEx man brought--about extending the name chart. It made me think about more ways I could be using organic vocabulary, especially in August and September.

The Belmont will be run Saturday, and I have to be at a wedding. It's family, so I have no choice, but why would anyone plan a wedding for Belmont day? I'm irritated a little. It will also be the third of June, the anniversary of the day Billy Joe Mcallister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge.   Most everyone knows that Angela and I grew up playing that old Bobbie Gentry album over and over and over, and that ever since we've been adults and lived apart, we call one another every June 3rd and sing the Billy Joe song together over the phone.   So Saturday is a big day.

I have mixed feelings about this year's Weems Reunion. This is what I'm hearing from the grapevine: Lamar is resigning as president, Angela will be nominated to take his place, Lovett Weems will be the guest speaker, we will eat inside. I'm not handling any of this well. First Katie Couric leaves the Today Show, now we'll be eating inside at the Weems Reunion. All in one week. I don't handle change well at all. AT ALL. We always eat outside under those big shade trees, but that's just it. Katrina took those out.  Also, I'm just not sure about Lovett speaking. I mean, sure, he's THE Lovett Weems, Mr. Methodist and all, but I'm hoping there will still be time for all our rituals, the family reporting, the arguing over the collection plate, the cemetary report. Otherwise, how can we even call it the Weems Reunion? And don't tell her I said this, but Angela is far too young to be president of the reunion. The president must be an older person who weeps throughout the program, must have ridden a mule to the post office, must have ridden in a wagon to Carr Church every Sunday. See, I know for a fact Angela has never ridden a mule anywhere, she's not the type to cry in public much, she rode beside me in the back seat of a Chevrolet to church on Sundays. I might change my mind, but at this point I don't think I'm voting for her.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Time Flies

This last term has gone at an amazingly speedy rate. I am feeling the effects of Katrina more than ever. She blew through here when we had been in school four weeks. Anybody who has ever taught early childhood knows that it takes that long to establish routines, individually assess levels, etc. You absolutely cannot have a two week break at the end of August. But that's what happened, and it took at least a couple of weeks to re-establish routines (these children had suffered severe trauma) re-assess levels (severe trauma), and get our bearings again. So at the end of September we were back to where we'd worked so hard to get at the end of August, and I can really tell now just exactly what the cost of it was to this school year. Around the first of April, I began to feel extreme urgency. And guilt, of course. Guilt always accompanies the last term because you look back at all that was left undone, or at least I do. I have a hard time seeing what was accomplished because I am so urgently trying to squeeze every minute out of the last days. This year, the loss of time found me focusing more on literacy and math and leaving a lot of other things undone, such as science/ social studies/health. All those things that are so vital for concept development. I've tried to cram it all in now, and it's been a whirlwind, to say the least. Right now, we've got going: moon journals, life cycles, plants/seeds, Mother's Day projects. Last week, I threw in ice cream making and a mariachi band for Cinco de Mayo.

Carrye wants us to teach a math camp this summer, so I find my mind on that a lot--how to secure a location, get the word out, set up the centers, etc. Then there's writing project stuff on top of it. I talked to Katie last week, and we reminisced about how we used to teach literature camp in my backyard in Petal. There was never a time back then when the two of us didn't have something in the works. She'd come in and say, "I need to make some money", and before she walked back out we'd have something planned. If you know how and aren't afraid of hard work, you can make a thousand dollars working five mornings a week, no problem. We'd plan the greatest learning experiences, going all out, pulling out all the stops. Then, at the end of the week, we'd hit the stores and "invest" our money in household furnishings. One Saturday, at the end of a camp week, we found ourselves at an auction in Hattiesburg. The auctioneer called us "outlaws", but she came away with a nice loveseat and two bird prints, and I got a round table, a sofa for my classroom, three side chairs (one of which I'm sitting in right now), and a painting. Tim and Rob weren't exactly thrilled when we called them to come and get our purchases, but they had to admit we really know how to stretch a dollar.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I shouldn't have started reading Elie Wiesel's Night. It has me feeling very down, combined with the rainy weather, which always pulls me down, too. I have too much to do to feel down right now. I am taking a break (short break) from writing reading reports to send home with my children tomorrow. I am afraid I am not going to get them all done. There was a meeting after school, and I didn't get home until 5:35. I was running (and I do mean running) around the kitchen doing several things at once: chopping vegetables, browning meat, starting a pot of coffee (no sleep last night), jotting items on a list of things I must absolutely do before my head touches the pillow tonight, looking over Lizzie's papers, listening to Hannah tell about her math test today, pulling off clothes and jewelry (I wore two different earrings today; nobody mentioned it), putting a load of clothes in the washer, talking to Katie Bug's mother on the phone, checking e-mail and finding one from Kati Pearl's mother that had to be answered right away. By 6:00, I had most everything at least under some semblance of control. Tim called. He wanted to stay in Hattiesburg for Bible study, did I mind? "Do you need me?" I always need you; can't live without you; get home as soon as you can; be careful; I love you.

I really should be hitting that list, but this week has been so very fast-paced and I am very tired. Tessa, if you're reading this, I promise I will read your entry tonight. I know I promised I would do it last night. I know. But tonight, I mean it. I meant it last night, too.

I need to go back down to the nursing home and clean some more, but the weather is sounding really bad out, and I hate to leave the girls by themselves in case the power goes off. Every time it goes off since Katrina, Lizzie asks how many weeks will it be off this time.

I did cancel tomorrow night's study group session, which gives me a little more time to work on these reading reports. I really did not want to cancel, because I've got some good stuff on writing strong leads/dynamic conclusions/word choice. I am having a great time with the study group members; I love having their input on these lessons I'm putting together. I hope they are finding it helpful as well.

Why is it that far too often the more you know about someone the less you like them? I just did an internet search on someone, and some things came up on my screen that I did not want there. Sometimes I just do not like people. Actually, a lot of times I don't. It's the rain and the book, I hope.

Why did I promise my parents I'd send these reports tomorrow? Why do I do these things that seem like fantastic things to do in theory, but take up so very much of my time? Why? I guess because I want my girls' teachers to do it for them. They don't, but I want them to. So I do unto others. While I was leveling the children, I was jotting down all these notes about which strategies they use while reading and which ones they don't (but should), so I sent a letter home saying that I'd type up my notes and send them home with the children Thursday. But now I don't see how I can get them all done (well, done well) by tomorrow. Maybe I will work on them over spring break and send them home with the report cards.

I love my job. In what other job would you get told every single day that you're beautiful? That you're funny? They slip up and call me Mama and I don't correct them. "Mama, what do you want us to do after we write in our journals?" Come and hug me and then choose a book to read to a friend. Today, I stood in front of the mirror before we went to lunch and announced to them that I am too fat and I am going on a diet right away. They were indignant. "You are not too fat!" "You are perfect!" "You are beautiful!" "I love you!"

I will do a few more reports, and then I will take a long bath and try to unwind so I can get a good night's sleep. No, wait! I have to put the clothes in the dryer! I have to pack Lizzie's lunch! I have to iron! I have to make parent phone calls! I have to read to Lizzie! I have to get her in the tub! Why am I sitting here pretending I have time to write?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I slept 7 hours straight last night. When I looked at the clock and saw that it was 6:12, I was at first disoriented. How could it be 6:12? What happened to 1:30, 2:45, 4:15? Most nights, I see several different numbers on the clock before the alarm goes off. I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself: no puffy eyes, no red cheeks, my stomach even seemed flatter. I have always wanted to experience the healing powers of sleep that I've heard and read so much about. God is good.

We had to take Lizzie to MEA yesterday afternoon. We'd planned to go the the Backdoor Coffeehouse last night--David had a Celtic band coming, and some other people lined up. We had arranged a babysitter and were going to even actually go to eat beforehand. It was going to be a--dare I say it?--a night out. I have distant memories of those. But Lizzie has a sinus infection that has gotten into her ears and has her throat all raw, and on top of that (on bottom of that?) she injured her tailbone on the playground Thursday. The doctor said it could possibly be cracked and that he could x-ray it, but there's really no point because nothing at all can be done for it. She got a shot (a NINETY DOLLAR SHOT), a flu test (a SEVENTY DOLLAR FLU TEST), and a prescription for an antibiotic. It was nearly 8:00 when we finally made it home. She went to sleep in the car and slept until 6:12 this morning.

The Arch books I ordered on President's Day are trickling in. Even the orders I cancelled are coming, which irritates me a little but I'm trying not to think about it. It's my own fault. I got carried away. A couple of days before, I'd ordered some from Concordia Publishing House. I'd been thinking about the Arch books we had when I was little. Arch books are bible stories written for children. We had dozens of them; I learned to read when I was four because of those books. I'm pretty sure Angela got (stole) them all from Mama's house, but she won't exactly say. She got suddenly evasive the last time I asked her about them. Fine. I can always just order my own. So I found a source for them (CPH), but their ordering process is just not at all user-friendly, and their processing is slow. So I did what I always do and went to Amazon. I like to order from small companies when I can, just like I like to bypass Wal-Mart and buy from smaller companies, but I really wanted those Arch books for Lizzie, so I went to Amazon. When I saw the 796 offerings there, something just came over me, I guess. And so many used sellers! Some selling for as little as 1 cent! Well, I just starting clicking "add to cart", "add to cart", "add to cart" over and over again. I'd click on a title, find the cheapest seller, twenty cents, fifteen cents, eighty-five cents, all in good condition, and I bought about thirty-five books in no time flat. Seven of them I had to purchase new from Amazon at anywhere from a dollar ninety-eight to three ninety-eight. I was giddy with excitement, drunk on the savings. I went through the one-click ordering at record speed, barely glancing at anything except the totals: twenty four something from used sellers, and twenty one something from Amazon. I clicked the okay button at about the same time I glanced at the final total, including shipping. WHAT!?! Good grief. Good grief. Good grief. I am an idiot. I was paying $3.95 to ship EACH one of those twenty cent books, and only $7.98 to ship EVERY one of the new ones. What to do? I clicked around the site and learned that you can cancel orders within thirty minutes of ordering. So I went to work pulling up every single one of them and cancelling all but the new ones from Amazon. I had them all done within ten minutes, working fast. Still, in about an hour I started getting order confirmation e-mails from all these individual sellers. I sat here and responded, over and over, to those e-mails: I am sorry, but I cancelled that order. Please do NOT send me the book. Out of thirty orders, I've gotten three of them anyway. I hope that's all that didn't get cancelled.

Hannah made the varsity cheerleading squad. She was excited for thirty minutes, until she found out her best friend didn't make it. They cheered together on the junior high squad, so she has some changes ahead of her. She's still a little down about it, but I can see some of the excitement coming back. I am glad that relationships are more important to her than accomplishments. She's had a tough week, though.

Lizzie started journaling this week. She's been journaling in kindergarten, of course, but I bought her a little spiral bound journal at the dollar store and she's been writing in it every night.

I finished Life of Pi. I miss being on that lifeboat with Pi and Richard Parker. I'm reading a strange book now, "The Boy on the Bus". Strange. I've copied one passage in my notebook already, though. When I read, if I own the books I underline interesting passages or phrases to revisit; if I borrow the books from the library or a friend, I write the passages or phrases in a notebook. This is what I copied from "The Boy on the Bus": "I do care what other people are saying, but not because I care what they think. It's just that sometimes what other people say shows a truth you cannot see yourself. Because you're always too close to your own life."

I started yet another blog this week, a daily news blog at I hope I can keep it up. Sometimes I think I work myself into a hole that I can't dig out of. The point of a new communication tool should be that it works for you, not that you work for it. Now that Elton has fixed things so that I can access from school, it shouldn't be a problem. I can post quickly during snack time and be done with it.

Thursday at lunch, B, who was wearing a new outfit from J.C. Penney for the class picture and had new gold metallic thong flip-flops to go with it, announced that only people wearing flip-flops could play with her at recess. We had a warm spell earlier in the week (which was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful) so a couple of the girls actually did have on sandals and flip-flops that day. Others came to me, upset by the announcement. So I gave a little teacher speech when we got back to the room, and I heard no more about the flip-flop club. However, yesterday morning, which dawned bright and cold, with a low of 44, K and T came in wearing jeans, long-sleeve shirt, coats, and flip-flops. I don't know how they convinced their mothers.

I did something yesterday that I regretted almost instantly, which let me know I shouldn't have done it, and now I'm thinking about how to get out of it. I got an e-mail invitation from Sherry to go to the national scoring conference in Denver again this year. Last year was really great; I learned so much, even though they worked the dog out of us. I mean, they worked us hard. Still, though, it was a great experience, and I was glad to be invited again. So, even though I had niggling doubts the whole time I was doing it, I faxed her all the info she requested, and then I just pushed it to the back of my mind for the rest of the day. Last night after we got back from the doctor, though, I saw that I had another e-mail from Sherry. She thanked me for faxing the info, but said she'd be out of the office for the next two weeks and wouldn't be able to get the fax, so could I just e-mail the info or call her on her cell. So I'm thinking that maybe instead of doing that, I'll just tell her I've had second thoughts and to give someone else my spot. I'm going to think about it for a while longer.

I heard from Firebird this week. I miss talking to her. She was having a little trouble with an online professor giving unclear assignments. She'd give the prompt for a paper, but then hold the students accountable for things that were not listed in the prompt. Even though our conversation was not based on personal things, I still enjoyed having contact with her. She might come here and spend a weekend with us at the end of this month.

I gave Rachael another chance Wednesday night. On the second episode, her theme was wine. She cooked three dishes with wine: a scallop and artichoke thing, a veal and pasta dish, and peaches in port that she served over ice cream. She suggested that you invite your friends over to watch you cook this meal and serve them wine while they watch. On the first episode, she made a dessert that I'm going to make as soon as I finish the sugar fast I'm planning. (I'm having a lot of joint problems, and a sugar fast always helps.) She threw a chunk of butter in a skillet, added dark brown sugar and sliced bananas, then at the end put in some rum. She served that over caramel ice cream. I think that'll be good, even though I have a milk allergy and ice cream has adverse effects on me.

I did have company while I cooked Thursday night, but I served them coffee instead of wine. Tim and his siblings have been invited to sing at Lowery Creek Baptist Church tonight, and they were practicing here. It was nice listening to them while I peeled potatoes with a paring knife (take that, Rachael), and put together a meat loaf (Rachael always stuffs her meat loaf and makes a roll out of it). They have a good sound because they all know how to sing all the different harmony parts. While I peeled and chopped with a paring knife, I amused myself by singing along and trying to pick out parts they weren't singing. I'm good at that, finding hard-to-hear alto or tenor notes, even trying out bass parts from time to time. I don't guess I'll be able to go and hear them tonight; I'll need to stay here with Lizzie. I'm thinking of renting Out of Africa to watch.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Say it ain't so, Raych

I got home around 5:30 today; I'd already missed the first Rachael Ray episode. Tim was grilling, so I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the second one. (I'd planned to get in a good walk, but on the way home something came over me and I felt awful; this is happening a lot lately.) Anway, I thought the coffee and Rachael would give me a second wind. Three minutes into the episode, she picked up a vegetable peeler and started peeling potatoes with it. Well, I'm sorry, but it was like the fall of an idol or something. She might just as well have opened a box of instant mashed potatoes or hamburger helper as far as I'm concerned. Do real cooks use vegetable peelers. No, they do not. Real cooks use paring knives for peeling. Vegetable peelers are for people who use cake mix and minute rice. I could forgive her for having an extra vowel in her name, but not this.

Life of Pi is getting better and better; the only problem is I am so swamped with work I don't have time to finish it. By the time I finish everything at night and open it, I'm falling asleep. I love the section toward the beginning about his conversion to Christianity and then to Islam the next day (in addition to being a Hindu already). It's good stuff.

Anthony Burger will be buried tomorrow, I think. The e-mail I got last Thursday morning about his death just took something out of me. I couldn't shake the heavy feeling all day. I can't say that I like Southern gospel music, because I really don't. Not the lyrics (most of them anyway) and not the sound. And yet, because it was such a part of my growing-up years, I still keep up with all the artists. My aunt and uncle used to follow them around and one of my uncles sang and played guitar in a gospel quartet. We'd go to hear the Speer family or the Hemphills, and we knew all their songs. Angela and Pat and I would sit right on front and sing so loud they'd call us up to do numbers by ourselves. They'd put us up on a piano bench so everyone could see us, and we'd get after it, singing rounds and parts. We did sound good. Now, when I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll put in a Gaither Homecoming video and listen and sing along. The girls will walk through the room, and I'll say "See that woman? That's Candy Christmas. I sang for her once. She told me I was a good little singer. See that man? That's Ben Speer. I sang for him several times. He picked me up and put me on a piano stool. I sang a song about Joshua and the walls of Jericho tumbling down. He played the piano for me." The girls will say, "Mama, you've told us that a million times."

I'll bet Candy Christmas and those Speer women use paring knives to peel potatoes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Note to Maja

Maja, our district superintendent called a faculty meeting yesterday to tell us about a new computer program the district has purchased that will "instantly assess student writing" with a four-point rubric. I held my tongue because I've come to understand that the name of the game (and game it is) is the standards-driven quick fix and I've learned to quietly keep the faith and fight the fight in other ways. When I got home, I started supper, turned on the computer, and found the e-mail notification of your response to my rubric blog. I was thinking to myself, "Maja Wilson, Maja Wilson. The name rings a bell." But, I couldn't place it. I went back to the kitchen to slice onions and mushrooms, and that's when it hit me. You're the author of Rethinking Rubrics. I don't know how you found my blog, but let me tell you this: the first thing I thought was, "Shoot! I hope she doesn't read yesterday's entry and tell Alfie Kohn about my star chart!" The reason I ordered your book from Heinemann is that Alfie Kohn wrote the foreword. Or, at least, that's what caught my eye initially. I probably would've ordered it anyway after reading the description, because this is the time of year I am supposed to introduce the state writing rubric to my first graders so they'll have a jump start on it for second grade, when their writing will be assessed by it. And, consequently, this is the time of year I struggle with my deep conviction that they do not need the cursed thing because they are just becoming fairly adept at the conversational tools that yield deeper and fuller results than the state rubric, which somehow has a dehumanizing effect. Perhaps because it is not, after all, human?

I begin writing instruction in August using "organic vocabulary", or "key vocabulary", as Sylvia Ashton-Warner dubbed it in her New Zealand classroom in the 1960's. I won't go into all of it, but the stories grow from these organic words (hopes, fears, love, sex) and the conversation surrounding them. All of the narrative writing we do stems from these inner thoughts, feelings, and images. "Success" is in how it affected us (laughter, tears, anger, snorts, "wonderings", intense personal connections). Enter the rubric-an intruder, without blood or breath, lacking the ability to laugh/cry/wonder/connect- and suddenly the success of a piece is to be measured against this list? Grade level vocabulary? Their word choice is well beyond grade level vocabulary; it is the vocabulary of their very lives. On topic? Why wouldn't it be? And it is so very easy to get a 4 on this rubric, and so then, even though I absolutely do not indicate to the children in any way that a 4 is what we're shooting for and we should be satisfied with it, suddenly these children with whom I have worked so hard to root out that need for extrinsic motivation that far too many of them have as a result of being alive for six years in our society, are satisfied with less than they should be, because they "topped out" on the rubric.

Recently, I was gathering materials and planning an outline for a study group I am leading on reading like a writer with the six traits in mind, and I took a quick break to check out some discussion forums I frequent. A member of one of the forums, a dyslexic man, had written this:

"I want to write but some one might read it but I want to writemaybe I can write in a code but know no code and some one might break the code and read But I want to write but some one might read it maybe I can write very small but some may enlarge it and then some one might read it I want to write but I can not spell good which would make it hard to read but some one might be able to read it anyway O how fears hold us back from doing what we want to do Now I wrote for fun and games but we all must work to over come our fears"

A powerful piece, and yet it would not score at all well on the six point rubric I'd just been looking over.

I need to get out of here and pick up my daughter from cheerleader practice, but I did want to get a quick response to you. I just remembered that when I went to Heinemann to place an order that day, I was looking for books for our local writing project teacher consultants to discuss on our discussion board. I'm wondering if you would consider facilitating a discussion of Rethinking Rubrics on our board.

And yet, last night I was reading the portfolio entries of two National Board candidates, and I had the rubric beside me the whole time, dissecting the entry for evidence of the key components.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I just watched Rachel Ray make baked ziti and spinach/artichoke salad. I've started watching Rachel every night from five 'til six, two back-to-back 30 Minute Meals episodes. I can't watch unless I'm cooking, too. All of her meals involve a lot of chopping, and I find that very therapeutic. So while Rachel is pulling all of her ingredients out of the fridge and pantry, I do the same, pretty much deciding what we'll have as I go. Tonight, I quartered some of every vegetable in the house--two kinds of potatoes, squash, onions, carrots--put it all in a pan drizzled with olive oil. It's roasting right now and smells great. When Tim and the girls get home from the gym, we'll have those with some pork chops, peas, and rice.

This weekend, I read two novels. One by S. E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders. Strange, strange novel, this new adult one she's written. I would never have picked it up if I'd known it was a vampire story, but nothing on the jacket indicated that it was. The other is about a woman who coddled her son from the moment he was born--never let him suffer any consequences for his actions, had him switched around to another class if a teacher crossed him in any way, made phone calls if a coach wouldn't play him, etc. Sick. The novel was a sort of retrospective piece; she was looking back on his life the night before he was sentenced for murder in a drug deal gone bad. Now I've started The Life of Pi.

I'm doing a lot of reading these days and I'm beginning to have problems with my eyes. My arm is not quite long enough anymore. I just sat here and read through several course outlines from MIT's online courses. I was talking with Vernon earlier today, just for a second or two, and he gave me the link. Some of those courses look great. The readings and handouts are all there. It looks like a gold mine to me. Of course, you don't get any credit but I have never cared about that. Speaking of that, please don't anyone tell Alfie Kohn this, but I actually made a--are you ready for this?-- star chart Friday. I know. It's terrible. I felt cheap and ridiculous. But that's just how big a problem I'm having this year with parents bringing their children late and checking them out early. So I started a star chart for attendance and --you will not believe this--there will be rewards attached. I almost could not even type that. It's a long story and those of you who know how I feel about these things need to just trust me when I say it was necessary.

I guess we all have our quirks. One of mine is that I cannot be without earrings. I just don't feel right without them. The other morning, I went to the bathroom when I got to work, and noticed I only had one earring in. I didn't know if I'd lost the other one or what. One of my favorite pairs, too. I knew I didn't have any in my purse, but I searched through it anyway. So I just picked up the phone and called the florist when they opened at eight. Do you have some earrings, silver-tone, medium-sized, around ten or fifteen dollars? Let me check, ma'am. Be right back. (Pause.) Ma'am? We have some nice ovals with a dangling gemstone in the center for thirty. Is that all? Well, there are some small sterling silver hoops for ten, and some medium-sized ones for fourteen. Okay, I'll just take the ten dollar ones. I have an account there, and I need them delivered to the elementary school, room 104. What do you want me to put on the card? No card. No card? Do you want me to say they're from you or is it a surprise? No surprise. I lost an earring and I need a pair to wear today. (Pause.) Okay. You know there's a delivery charge? Sure, that's fine. Just bring them as soon as you can.

She brought them, and declined the tip I offered for hush money. She said my secret was safe with her. But. When we went out to the buses that afternoon, several people asked me about it, laughed, thought it was funny. Small towns are like that.

There's a slush machine in the cafeteria now. I cannot understand their thinking at all. About three weeks ago, all soft drinks were removed from the coke machines and replaced with "fruit drinks" that, according to the Coke man, have several more grams of sugar than any of the soft drinks he took out. The reason we were given is that there were some concerns about the health of the children, childhood obesity, etc. Fine. Okay. However, a typical lunch in the cafeteria is corn dog/cheeseburger/nachos, fries/tater tots, a vegetable that the children are not required to pick up, a dessert, a freezer full of ice cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped cones, etc. that they can purchase for fifty cents extra. Now a slush machine. WHAT????? Well, as if lunch were not already stressful enough for first grade teachers--we already serve all the food, clean up spills, open milk and ketchup and ice cream and plastic-wrapped plastic forks-- now we have to handle the slush money and remind them to take it to the cafeteria, etc. Shontelle says the only way we can survive is to laugh. She says we absolutely, positively must laugh. It is imperative that we laugh. Imperative. So we crack ourselves up by exaggerating the whole slush thing when the children leave to go to P.E. A typical conversation, with her words in italics, mine in bold: Slush machines are vile instruments from the pits of hell. Yes, straight from the bowels of Hades. Slush machines were invented by male Nazis. Yes, the plans were drawn up in a bunker in Berlin, perfected in the council halls of Mordor, constructed in Calormen. Well, there's one good thing, at least. They took those wicked Sprites and Mr. Pibbs out of here. At least.

I'm listening to a tape series by Robert Oden on Comparative Religion. It's really good; better than I expected. There are twelve lessons, I think, and I've only heard four.

I'd better go check the food. In the middle of this, I put on a pot of pasta and threw in every kind of cheese we have in the refrigerator. That's what Rachel does.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It Ain't Easy Having Principles

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Another Valentine's Day ruined by those dadgum florist deliveries. Every February 14, I spend the school day trying to teach the children about friendship and love. Not that I don't do it every day, through class meetings and implicit interactions, of course. But on Valentine's Day, it's sort of our theme. This morning, we exchanged valentines, read books about friendship, read 1 Corinthians 13, made homemade cards for family members and talked about how yeah sure, you could go to the store and buy something, but a handmade gift contains something of the giver in a way that a purchased gift does not. This afternoon, the children did all of their learning activities in pairs and small groups, working together toward answers, celebrating the putting of heads and hearts together to complete projects. Then we had our party and listened to the soundtrack from The Preacher's Wife, a class favorite, and the Eagles' Love will Keep us Alive and Dobie Gray's Drift Away, both teacher favorites. So it should have been a good day, right? But no, because around 2:00 those stinkin' florist deliveries started up, and eleven of the children got crap from their parents, Mommies and Daddies who "love them" and want to do it publicly. I knew it was coming, but there was not a thing in the world I could do to stop it. Suddenly, we are not a community working together, we are "us" and "them". The tears started up, the downcast faces where smiles had been moments before. A rotten ending to what should be a day of love and friendship. All because some parents are hellbent on "vaunting", "puffing up", and "seeking their own". You tell me what other reason there could be for sending a gift to the school rather than giving it in a family setting when they get home? There is no other reason. There's just not. I watch it every year. I put half of them on the buses crying and upset because they don't understand why they didn't get a balloon or a teddy bear or a pail full of candy, and the ones who did get something are suddenly looking down on the have nots. And then I walk back to the crowd of teachers and give my yearly speech about the evils of elitism and greed, and loudly proclaim how much I despise the weak administrators who will not stand up to the florist and say we don't give a rip how much money you lose, we only care about the best interests of the children, and we will no longer accept deliveries on Valentine's Day. Then I add, because I can't help myself, I just can not, that the worst of all evils is a teacher who sends something to her own children at school. Because those people who work in town don't see all the crying have nots, but teachers do and should therefore know better. Lizzie was one of the ones in tears today, asking why all her friends got balloons and she didn't. Before I could say anything, Hannah said, "Give it up, Lizzie. Your mother has to make a statement."

I know people look down their noses at me and my causes, and I just don't care. Well, sometimes I do, but today I don't. I do pray for forgiveness for despising the weak, though. I do. I mean, I know for a fact that some of those teachers, even though they see the wrong as much as I do, and they have to comfort the have nots, too, send balloons to their own children so that they will not be among the crying. All I've got to say about that is that rather than saying, when they're grown, "What I remember about Mama is that she always sent me something from the florist on Valentine's Day", I want them to say, "What I remember about Mama is that she had principles and always championed the cause of the have nots."

Valentine's Day at the Atwoods was very nice, though. Very nice. It always is, and I am filled with gratitude that I am so blessed. Tim is very good to us. I had planned to sit down tonight and write about my birthday and my special birthday supper that he went all over Hattiesburg to get. All my favorites from different places, from the crab- stuffed mushrooms to the white chocolate bread pudding with raspberry sauce. But I had no idea it had gotten so late, and I need to get to bed.